Title: The Wait
Pairing/s: Can read it how you want.
Character/s: Merlin (mentions of Arthur, Gwen, Percival, Leon, Gaius and Hunith.)
Summary: How long did he have to wait for?
Warnings: Mentions of suicide
Word Count: 991
Author's Notes: This is kind of depressing... Sorry!
The first month had been hard.
The first year had been painful.
The first century, however, had been almost excruciating.
Merlin knew he wasn’t like others. Never before had he truly considered his own mortality. Everything had always been done for Arthur and whether he lived or died was almost irrelevant. But somehow he had always escaped. Merlin had just put it down to luck, his powers and a king who cared more than he would ever admit.
But never did he believe that was because he was immortal.
He felt himself age the years after Arthur’s death, even as he fought to help Gwen rule Camelot. He had spent years by the prince and then the king’s side, and Merlin found himself surprised with just how much he knew. But it wasn’t only what he knew that was important, but how he knew it. He had the knowledge of a king through being by Arthur’s side. They had had days of hunting where Arthur vented everything on his mind and the decisions that he had to make. Talk upon talk with the king asking his servant for his own opinion. Merlin knew better than anyone the way Arthur would have wanted the kingdom run and he was just grateful that Gwen appreciated that fact. Albion had been created, and through their joint efforts, they drew the kingdom into a golden age.
Merlin hoped that Arthur would be proud.
But having his mind distracted only helped so much and Merlin couldn’t fail to notice the changes. Gaius passed on, sleeping away in the night some time peacefully. Merlin mourned, but he knew it had been the man’s time. His mentor had never quite been the same after Arthur’s death and the repealing of the law on magic, almost as if the emotional weight of everything that had just happened had finally caught up with him.
His mother was the next to go, Merlin’s grief almost threatening to topple the kingdom. He couldn’t deal with much more loss. At least, he didn’t think so at the time. For almost a week he sat by the shores of Avalon, staring into the water and wondering how many more people he would lose to death. But the lake was always silent those days, neither Freya nor Arthur ever appeared to him.
But in a way, Merlin knew his mother’s death would have had to happen.
Yet that was when things changed.
It was when he started noticing that his friends were getting older and he wasn’t changing. No one ever said anything about it but Merlin could see the looks he was beginning to receive. Not from those closest to him, but by those more distance. Rumours started spreading about him having too much power and Merlin took himself far away. The last thing he wanted was for him to be responsible for the downfall of the kingdom they had worked so hard to build.
He never returned to Camelot.
He intended too, Merlin knew that much. But when he received a shakily penned letter from a frail Percival stating that both Gwen and Leon had fallen prey to old age, Merlin knew he couldn’t go back. There was nothing left for him there, only reminders of what he had lost. No one knew him to tell him of Percival’s death, but Merlin knew the knight would have followed shortly after, his own age getting the better of him.
Merlin still looked the same.
He tried to end it all in several different ways. But every time he thought death had finally come to reunite him with his loved ones, he awoke in the crystal cave, back in the body of his youthful self even if he had died in the disguise of Dragoon. Magic was preserving him and Merlin knew what for.
The dragon had told him that Arthur would rise again. Merlin knew now that his king would need him there when that time came. What he hadn’t expected was that he would be made to live out each of those years.
He moved around the place, but found within three centuries that he couldn’t leave the lake for any length of time. The last thing he needed was for Arthur to come back when Merlin was beginning to venture further afield. Even when technology began to kick off and inter-country travel became possible, Merlin preferred to learn what he could from books rather than going abroad himself. When Arthur was back, he promised himself that he would explore the world then. But until that day came, he had to stay there.
Each century, he planted a tree to help pass time. He never wanted to forget how many years he was being forced to walk the earth. He allowed himself to grow old (using his magic to force his body to age), slept a few years away in the cave and then re-emerged a young man ready to start life again. No one got suspicious, for there was never anyone left to recall his younger face each time he started again.
It was a lonely existence. He had lost too many people to be able to go through the pain again.
“Anytime now will be useful, you know,” a young Merlin told the still waters of the lake as he brushed the dirt from his hands. That had been the hundredth tree he had planted and he wasn’t sure how much more he could take. At this rate, this lifetime would be cut shorter than normal. It happened ever few centuries where he just couldn’t cope.
Only this time, a soft dripping caught his attention and he turned towards the lake. The dripping turned into a roar of water as the lake shimmered.
His wait was over.
Someone was rising from the waters, and Merlin was on his knees before he truly realised he wouldn’t have to be alone any more.